Last year after being married for about 12 years, I was divorced. I had never had to take control of my own finances, so it’s been a learning process. One thing I have learned is that I need to watch my spending whenever I can. That is why I’m writing to you. I remember a couple years ago you wrote a column about how you can have your tax return prepared for free. I’m curious if you could still do that today. My next question deals with wills. When I go online, I see lots of places to get free wills and I don’t trust them. Is there a place that I can go to get a free will? You should know I have no children and very little in the way of assets. I also have a power of attorney and medical power of attorney from the State of Michigan.
You may not have a lot of experience in handling your personal finances; however, you have identified the key to keeping your financial house in order, and that is to control spending. I always tell people it’s never what you make, it’s what you save.
Yes, there is a place you can go to have your tax return prepared for free. The IRS has a program known as free file that allows you to use software from a variety of independent tax preparation companies for free. The IRS has offered this program for a number of years and it is something that more and more Americans ought to take advantage of. The software is from well-known tax preparation companies such as H&R Block and TurboTax. Basically, it is the same software you can buy at the store but through the IRS it’s free.
I know what you’re thinking and that is there must be a gimmick since it’s offered by the IRS. There is no gimmick and it works. There is one caveat and that is this program is for people who make $66,000 a year or less. If you make more than that you’re not eligible for the program. In addition, the only way to access this program is directly through the IRS website. All you need to do is visit www.irs.gov/freefile.
The will I would recommend for you would be the Michigan Statutory Will. The Michigan Statutory Will is a fill-in-the-blank will that has been authorized by the State of Michigan. It is very simple to complete and I think it would effectively cover your needs. You can download a copy on my website Bloom Asset Management Forms or if you prefer you can get one directly through the State Bar of Michigan at http://www.michbar.org/generalinfo/libraries/wills.
I think it is wonderful that you already have powers of attorney, and now with your will, it will put you in very good shape with regard to your estate planning needs. However, one additional document I would recommend is what I call a document locator. You should have a road map for your loved ones so they know where to locate your assets, important legal documents, passwords and user names for your online activity, as well as any other important information the family may need in closing up your affairs. It is important that if something happens to you, someone that you trust and have confidence in will know where your document locator is, and will be able to access it.
Looking for ways to save money and to be more efficient with our resources is something we should all dedicate ourselves to. Therefore, if you can save on legal fees by using the Michigan Statutory Will, or to save on accounting fees by taking advantage of the IRS free file, I say why not.
If you would like Rick to respond to your questions, please email Rick at email@example.com